The labels on domestics like Bud and Miller High Life are about to change: The country’s top brewers — Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Constellation Brands, and Heineken — have all agreed to finally add so-called “serving facts” labels, finally providing people with quantitative data on calories, carbs, protein, fat, alcohol content, and even a freshness date. Some breweries are making the changes immediately, but the Beer Institute (Big Beer’s lobbying group in D.C.) is encouraging everybody to add them by 2020. Collectively, the breweries in this group produce over 80 percent of American beer, so once the initiative is fully rolled out, it’ll make for one of the most sweeping changes to the industry in years.
Labels are regulated by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency actually ruled beer-makers could add nutrition info, if they wanted, back in 2013 — the idea being that consumers might appreciate having things like a brew’s serving size and number of carbs easily accessible on packaging. But almost none of the breweries took the TTB up on the offer. Miller64, a beer with a calorie count that is literally part of its name, did in 2014, but, then again, it didn’t exactly have anything to lose.
The initiative, which is voluntary anyway, doesn’t specify that these serving facts must physically appear on labels — a measure some had backed because, you know, that’s sort of the whole point. Instead, the wording Big Beer adopted says it’s cool to make the necessary disclosures online by linking consumers to the facts via a QR code, the same cumbersomely high-tech way food companies want federal GMO labels to work, also much to Americans’ dismay.